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Survey finds gap between doctors, nurses on capping hours

Nurses and doctors in New Hampshire may have different opinions on whether surgeons and others giving operating room care should have their hours capped. A poll conducted by Medscape found that just 57 percent of physicians agreed with capping hours as a way to reduce the likelihood of medical errors. On the other hand, 87 percent of nurses believed that capping hours was a good idea. Similarly, 89 percent of nurses said that hours in the operating room for other medical professionals should also be capped, but only 62 percent of physicians agreed.

An editorial in favor of caps appeared in the Journal of the International Society of Arthroscopy, Knee Surgery and Orthopaedic Sports Medicine. The author of that editorial argued that transportation professionals who were responsible for the safety of others, such as train drivers and pilots, had their hours capped and that the same principle should be applied to physicians. However, physicians who resisted said that it was not possible to compare the professions. For example, pilots have copilots who can take over, but there may not be a physician available to take over in the operating room.

A question was also asked about monitoring substance abuse and other harmful behaviors in doctors and other medical staff. Again, answers were divided. Just over 60 percent of doctors agreed with this type of monitoring, but 82 percent of nurses favored it.

Unfortunately, fatigue from working long hours can lead to errors in judgment and actions that constitute medical malpractice. These could be major surgical errors or simply mistakes in diagnoses or the administration of medication. All of these could be devastating to a patient's recovery, and some could even be life-threatening. Someone who has suffered from medical malpractice may want to consult an attorney to discuss the possibility of filing a claim.

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